Karatsev hits the ball during the game against Dimitrov.DEAN LEWINS / EFE
Nobody was counting on him. Of course, because nobody, not even himself surely, imagined that in his first participation in a Grand Slam , after nine frustrated attempts to access a main draw since 2014, he would not only access but also stand in the semifinals. Hence Aslan Katsarev's smile. The 27-year-old Russian, 114th in the world rankings , defeated the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 and 6-2 (in 2h, 28m) and was definitely uncovered as the great surprise of this Australian edition . In his own right, he is already the first rookie in the Open Era (since 1968) to reach the penultimate round on a big stage.
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Now this latest victory comes with an asterisk. Dimitrov, who was trying to get out of the very long tunnel in which his career has been translated, competed diminished from the third set and that meant a red carpet for Katsarev, who until now had never been among the top 100 in the world and from next Monday he will climb, at least, to the 42nd rung of the ATP list. This is tennis, this is Australia; this Open at full throttle that took off against all odds, and that leaves exotic notes in both frames. That of the masculine, without a doubt, stars him, a Russian who will fight with Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev for a place in the final
Born in Vladikavkaz, right-handed and two-handed backhand, he has successively left Mager along the way. (96th), Guerásimov (79th), Schwartzman (9th) and Augger-Aliassime (19th) until he ended up in Dimitrov, who for one reason or another could not raise his head and aspired to match his best record in a Grand Slam. Semifinalist of Wimbledon in 2014, Australia 2017 and the US Open two years ago, his back played a trick on him this Tuesday and Katsarev obtained a triumph with capital letters that makes him the first Russian semifinalist in the ocean major since Marat did it Safin; This he achieved in 2002, for the third time.
History also says that the Russian is since Tuesday the semifinalist of a major tournament with the lowest ranking since Goran Ivanisevic. The Croat, one of the great scooters in history, was the 125th when he won Wimbledon in 2001, aged 29 and after having received an invitation from the London event. The books also tell that the American Patrick McEnroe reached the semifinals of the 1991 Australian Open when he occupied, coincidences of life, the 114th position of the ATP. The same as a certain Karatsev.